Six Places to Splurge During a Home Improvement Project

You don’t have to make big sacrifices to start stashing cash for surprise expenses

Home renovations are a chance to bring your dream house to life one project at a time. As you plan and save toward your next project, take some time to think about where you can save money — and where it might make sense to spend extra.

Sensible splurges fall into two main categories: jobs to hire a pro for rather than doing yourself, and places where higher-end items might make more financial and practical sense.

Labor makes up between 20-35% of the cost of many projects, so sometime it's smart to do the work yourself.

Don’t DIY

Labor makes up between 20% and 35% of the cost of many projects,1 so sometimes it’s smart to do the work yourself. For the following jobs, however, penny wise can be pound foolish.

1. Plumbing

Toilet, sink and shower pipes wind through the entire house, so a mistake in this area can cost big bucks to repair — and may even force you to evacuate the house until the problem is fixed.

2. Electric

Faulty wiring is an extreme fire hazard, and electric shock is a real danger. Also consider that you’ll probably sell your house someday, and an inspection report noting amateur electric work could scare off prospective buyers. Make the safe decision: Hire an electrician.

When to pay up for the good stuff

In the following cases, higher-quality items may be well worth the extra cost.

3. Surfaces that get heavy wear

Kitchen countertops and floors in high-traffic areas take major abuse. Higher-end materials such as hardwood flooring or granite counters are likely to last longer and retain their value better than bargain alternatives. In the case of wood flooring, you can refinish it multiple times, so it should last decades.

4. Paint

Why pay $45 for a can of paint when you could pay $20? The answer: because it can cover more square feet, may need fewer coats and could wear better over time. (And it probably will look better, too.)

5. The small things you use the most

Consider spending extra for the little touches you touch a lot. For example, spending $100 on a showerhead you use daily might bring you more enjoyment than sinking $1,000 into radiant heating you use only on cold days.

6. Investments that will pay you back

Energy-saving upgrades such as LED light fixtures, ultra-efficient appliances and insulated windows may cost significantly more up front, but they can save you money over their lifetimes compared to less-efficient alternatives — and they’re usually better for the environment, too.

Another way to make the most of your money: Open an Empower Investment Account to build the savings you need to do the job right.

Open an Empower Investment Account to build the savings you need to do the job right

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1 National Kitchen and Bath Association, as of February 2020

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